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Aldridge

Businesses and residents in the far southern end of Lea County likely will have high-speed internet by the end of the year.

The New Mexico Department of Information Technology on Monday announced a new public-private partnership expected to build much-needed broadband infrastructure in southeastern New Mexico to accommodate the current economic expansion occurring in the Permian Basin.

The breakdown of costs in the partnership, according to a DoIT spokeswoman, is $1.1 million from XTO, $2.75 million from Plateau and $1.1 million from the state.

Jal Mayor Steve Aldridge expressed optimism at the news.

“It’s always good to hear there is movement towards getting fiber optics down here,” Aldridge said. “That is a good piece of information.”

The mayor pointed out the city’s ongoing efforts locally.

“We have been working with an area company to do the same thing,” Aldridge said. “We’ve been at it over a year because of how important connectivity is in a rural area, especially in New Mexico.”

With broadband already existing in Eunice, Aldridge said he has been working with a Hobbs provider to extend the service to Jal, about 25 miles.

Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, who also represents the Jal area, said Leaco is aiming to extend its broadband internet service to Jal.

“We’re actually working with Leaco, also, to try to make a joining point,” Gallegos said. “What they’re trying to do is get the technology to the oilfield so they can open and close valves. They’ll have cameras and monitors.”

Gallegos explained the economic value to oil and gas companies.

“Back east or up north, they say we’re trying to pollute the world. Actually, every time we drop oil on the ground or vent it into the air, it’s lost product. They lose money,” Gallegos said. “So, they’re trying to get smarter. The infrastructure is huge, so once they get Wi-Fi or fiber optics, they can do a lot more control.

“If we had the fiber optic from Leaco here and bring it in from Carlsbad over to Jal, we’ll have that whole Permian area up-to-date on technology. We’ll be 21st Century,” Gallegos said.

Stringing fiber optic cables into the Permian basin is expected to help other businesses, governments and private residents.

“The good thing is as you’re expanding that way to the oilfield, you’re also picking up residences, schools and all the city, so it’s a better product for all of us,” Gallegos concluded.

The DoIT news release about construction of fiber optic resources from Carlsbad to Jal quoted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, “My administration is always seeking out additional mechanisms to leverage public and private resources for the maximum benefit to New Mexicans.”

With construction already begun and completion scheduled for August this year, the broadband will be installed in four segments, starting just east of Carlsbad.

“This collaboration will provide greater connectivity for area businesses, schools and households, and make southeast New Mexico a safer place to live and work,” said Staale Gjervik, senior vice president, ExxonMobil Unconventional and president of XTO Energy.

“The new service also expands communications capabilities for ExxonMobil, allowing the company to leverage real-time data analysis from field processes and increase efficiency in our operations,” Gjervik said.

Information and Technology Secretary Vince Martinez anticipated completion of the fiber optic network to improve communications services in the region.

Martinez said “It will benefit the oil and gas industry, government agencies, and private citizens.”

Plateau CEO David J. Robinson cited the partnership as valuable to area.

“As a company driven by cooperative values, we believe all areas of the state deserve to have access to the best broadband technology at a fair price,” Robinson said. “We look forward to collaborating to bring fiber to underserved areas of rural southeast New Mexico.”

Curtis C. Wynne may be contacted at reporter3@hobbsnews.com .